Participants hail Ant Taxonomy Course ; a stepping stone towards understanding Ant Community Composition in Nyungwe National Park

#MURANGWA Darius 25-10-2021

From 18-26 October 2021 the Center of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management (CoEB) based in the College of Science and Technology, University of Rwanda is conducting a course on any taxonomy and sampling methods in Nyungwe National Park. The course was organized in collaboration with the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science (RBINS) through the fund for taxonomic capacity building awarded to Dr Wouter Dekoninck (Curator of Entomological Collections at RBINS) and Dr Venuste Nsengimana (Lecturer at University of Rwanda and Deputy Director of the CoEB).

A group photo during the visit of the Director of the CoEB to the Participants in Ant Course at IPR Kitabi

The aim of the course was to enhance knowledge on entomofauna and develop ant taxonomic capacity in Eastern Africa, starting from Rwanda. Specifically, the training program intended to (1) disentangle the taxonomic status of collected ant species and genera ; (2) develop a reference-type collection using modern sampling and curation techniques ; (3) understand the importance of good practices of adding type-material to a collection ; and (4) understand the techniques to describe, store and manage species and genera.

The expert trainers came to Rwanda from Belgium, Spain, and Ivory Coast, while participants in the course are from Rwanda, Kenya, and Democratic Republic of Congo. Theories are always enhanced by field activities in Nyungwe National Park and practical activities in the laboratory. So far three sampling sites (Pindura, Uwinka and Karamba) have been visited and 47 different species have been collected ! All collected ant specimens have been identified to genus and some to species level. Data will be published on the Rwanda Biodiversity Information System (RBIS) to allow easy access to the biodiversity of ants of Rwanda.

The trainer Kiko Gomez (L) from Spain explaining the distribution of ants worldwide to Prof Beth Kaplin, CoEB Director

Among participants in the ant course include Joselyne Barakagwira who is the CoEB Education and awareness raising coordinator. She noted that besides the role played by ants in our ecosystems, a lot is still unknown about biology and distribution of ants in Rwanda.

“The Rwanda ant course helped me to know how to sample, identify and manage collections of ants” She said, adding that she plans to share the knowledge she got from the course by training others and contribute to more sampling and identification of ants to avail data of ants in Rwanda.

Diane Umutoni, another participant attested that she learnt a lot in the ant course starting from the role played by ants. According to her, she didn’t know and care about ants because as she considered them as useless and less important living things to the human being.

“But now, I know that they are for example ecosystem engineers that improve soil quality and soil health. I know that they can be used as source of food, in medical studies and biological indicators of land use change,” witnessed Umutoni who is the Conservation and Research Assistant at Akagera National Park.

Group photo after the field sampling at Uwinka, Nyungwe National Park